More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can get your hands on the digital edition of Paul Kearney's excellent The Wolf in the Attic for only 3.46$ here. One of the best fantasy titles of 2016, no question!

Here's the blurb:

1920s Oxford: home to C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien... and Anna Francis, a young Greek refugee looking to escape the grim reality of her new life. The night they cross paths, none suspect the fantastic world at work around them.

Anna Francis lives in a tall old house with her father and her doll Penelope. She is a refugee, a piece of flotsam washed up in England by the tides of the Great War and the chaos that trailed in its wake. Once upon a time, she had a mother and a brother, and they all lived together in the most beautiful city in the world, by the shores of Homer's wine-dark sea.

But that is all gone now, and only to her doll does she ever speak of it, because her father cannot bear to hear. She sits in the shadows of the tall house and watches the rain on the windows, creating worlds for herself to fill out the loneliness. The house becomes her own little kingdom, an island full of dreams and half-forgotten memories. And then one winter day, she finds an interloper in the topmost, dustiest attic of the house. A boy named Luca with yellow eyes, who is as alone in the world as she is.

That day, she’ll lose everything in her life, and find the only real friend she may ever know.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (November 26th)

In hardcover:

Stephen King's Elevation is down two spots, finishing the week at number 8. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can download the first ten installments of L. E. Modesitt, Jr.'s Imager saga for only 2.99$ each here. There is a price match in Canada. This is the perfect opportunity to give this series a shot!

Here's the blurb for the first volume:

Although Rhennthyl is the son of a leading wool merchant, he has spent years becoming a journeyman painter. With his skill and diligence, Rhenn stands to be considered for the status of master artisan. Then, his entire life is transformed when his master patron is killed in a flash fire, and Rhenn discovers he is an imager—one of the few in the entire world who can visualize things and make them real.

He must leave his family and join the Collegium of Imagisle. Imagers live separately from the rest of society because of their abilities (they can do accidental magic even while asleep), and because they are both feared and vulnerable. In this new life, Rhenn discovers that all too many of the “truths” he knew were nothing of the sort. Every day brings a new threat to his life.

Willful Child: The Search for Spark

Like many Erikson fans everywhere, my curiosity was piqued when it was announced that the author would be publishing a Star Trek spoof. Personally, I've never been a Star Trek fan, but I was looking forward to reading Erikson's homage/parody. Considering how fun and humorous the Bauchelain and Korbal Broach novellas have always been, such a spoof promised to be hilarious. And the first two Willful Child installments were just that!

The first volume garnered some negative and luke-warm reviews from readers expecting a blistering and fascinating foray into science fiction by the author. How could anyone have had such expectations after reading the cover blurb, I'll never know. This series was always meant to be a parody. Anyone expecting something dense and thought-provoking, or the Bridgeburners in space, was sure to be disappointed. And yet, for those who thoroughly enjoyed Willful Child and Willful Child: Wrath of Betty, I can tell you that this third installment is just as fun and entertaining as its predecessors. If anything, it's even more over-the-top!

Here's the blurb

The New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed Malazan Book of the Fallen series, continues his hilarious science fiction series--parodying and paying homage to exploring the final frontier--with Willful Child: The Search for Spark.

These are the adventures of the starship A.S.F. Willful Child. Its ongoing mission: to seek out strange new worlds on which to plant the Terran flag, to subjugate and if necessary obliterate new life-forms.

We join the not terribly bright but exceedingly cocksure Captain Hadrian Sawback and his motley crew on board the Starship Willful Child for a series of devil-may-care, near-calamitous and downright chaotic adventures through the infinite vastness of interstellar space.

Steven Erikson has taken his lifelong passion for Star Trek and transformed it into a smart, inventive, and hugely entertaining spoof on the whole overblown mankind-exploring-space-for-the-good-of-all-species-but-trashing-stuff-with-a-lot-of-high-tech-gadgets-along-the-way adventure. The result is a novel that deftly parodies the genre while also paying fond homage to it.

Steven Erikson is renowned for multilayered worldbuilding that resounds with depth, but once more this facet takes a backseat in this new Star Trek spoof. We get just enough to keep the story moving forward and that's it. This is a parody/comedy and nothing gets in the way of the rhythm so that the jokes and weird/funny situations can keep on coming. As I mentioned, Willful Child: The Search for Spark just might be even more over-the-top than the first two volumes. It appears that Erikson was gunning for at least a laugh/chuckle on every single page and it's pretty much what we get. Once again, Erikson's latest isn't a work that takes itself too seriously and it's a joyride from start to finish! And all current affairs topics are fair game. The author takes on Trump, Brexit, the rise of far Right movements, politicians, corruption, Disney's acquisition of Star Wars, capitalism, and many, many more!

Following the hilarious misadventures of Captain Hadrian Sawback continues to be a riot. Sexist, incompetent, rude, too full of himself, and downright dumb at times, it's nonetheless impossible not to root for the poor guy. In every way, the man remains an over-the-top parody of the memorable Captain Kirk. Old-fashioned sexism, racism, and xenophobia often characterize his character, making him a throwback male protagonist from the 60S or the 70s. And understandably, he continues to take center stage in this novel. The supporting cast is comprised of incompetent crew members and a number of buxom female officers hand-picked by the captain for their looks and nothing else, as well as the recalcitrant chicken AI Tammy, and a few odd aliens along the way. Between Sawback and his incredibly inept crew, an AI from the future who wishes to see its captain fail miserably, Affiliation officers bent on orchestring Sawback's military and personal downfall, and friendly and not-so-friendly alien species populating known and unknown parts of interstellar space, how could things possibly go well for the Willful Child and its crew? Follow them on another unexpected and fun-filled journey across time, space and dimensions! Yes, the premise appears to be the same as that of its predecessors, but this work is more about the journey and not the destination.

By removing much of the depth and the details that have come to define Erikson's fantasy works, Willful Child: The Search for Spark is another fast-paced book. There is never a dull moment within its pages. Although I much prefer Steven Erikson's Malazan installments, occasional fun romps like these wacky scifi parodies are like a breath of fresh air that show a totally different side of the author. In my last review, I said that time will tell just how many of these fun and entertaining science fiction comedies Erikson can get away with. As enjoyable as this third installment turned out to be, at times it felt as though things were a bit rehashed. I believe that fans will clamor for yet more adventures featuring the inimitable Captain Hadrian Sawback and his crew as the voyage of the Willful Child continues. But for now, it might be best for the author to concentrate his efforts on the Witness trilogy and to complete the Kharkanas trilogy.

Still, if you are looking for yet another light and hilarious science fiction spoof, then Willful Child:The Search for Spark is just what the doctor ordered! Once again, this Star Trek parody/homage, with a number of Star Wars references thrown in for good measure, continues to work incredibly well.

Don't miss out on another opportunity to journey deeply in the deepest depths of deep space.

The final verdict: 7.5/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

Musical Interlude

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

For Cyber Monday, you can download Cixin Liu's The Three-Body Problem for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The Three-Body Problem is the first chance for English-speaking readers to experience the Hugo Award-winning phenomenon from China's most beloved science fiction author, Liu Cixin.

Set against the backdrop of China's Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion. The result is a science fiction masterpiece of enormous scope and vision.

You can also get your hands on the digital edition of Daryl Gregory's Spoonbenders for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Teddy Telemachus is a charming con man with a gift for sleight of hand and some shady underground associates. In need of cash, he tricks his way into a classified government study about telekinesis and its possible role in intelligence gathering. There he meets Maureen McKinnon, and it’s not just her piercing blue eyes that leave Teddy forever charmed, but her mind—Maureen is a genuine psychic of immense and mysterious power. After a whirlwind courtship, they marry, have three gifted children, and become the Amazing Telemachus Family, performing astounding feats across the country. Irene is a human lie detector. Frankie can move objects with his mind. And Buddy, the youngest, can see the future. Then one night tragedy leaves the family shattered.

Decades later, the Telemachuses are not so amazing. Irene is a single mom whose ear for truth makes it hard to hold down a job, much less hold together a relationship. Frankie’s in serious debt to his dad’s old mob associates. Buddy has completely withdrawn into himself and inexplicably begun digging a hole in the backyard. To make matters worse, the CIA has come knocking, looking to see if there’s any magic left in the Telemachus clan. And there is: Irene’s son Matty has just had his first out-of-body experience. But he hasn’t told anyone, even though his newfound talent might just be what his family needs to save themselves—if it doesn’t tear them apart in the process.

Finally, you can also download Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

A gripping vision of our society radically overturned by a theocratic revolution, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale has become one of the most powerful and most widely read novels of our time.

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, serving in the household of the enigmatic Commander and his bitter wife. She may go out once a day to markets whose signs are now pictures because women are not allowed to read. She must pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, for in a time of declining birthrates her value lies in her fertility, and failure means exile to the dangerously polluted Colonies. Offred can remember a time when she lived with her husband and daughter and had a job, before she lost even her own name. Now she navigates the intimate secrets of those who control her every move, risking her life in breaking the rules.

Like Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Handmaid’s Tale has endured not only as a literary landmark but as a warning of a possible future that is still chillingly relevant.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Raymond E. Feist's King of Ashes for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The first volume in legendary master and New York Times bestselling author Raymond E. Feist’s epic heroic fantasy series, The Firemane Saga—an electrifying tale of two young men whose choices will determine a world’s destiny.

For centuries, the five greatest kingdoms of North and South Tembria, twin continents on the world of Garn, have coexisted in peace. But the balance of power is destroyed when four of the kingdoms violate an ancient covenant and betray the fifth: Ithrace, the Kingdom of Flames, ruled by Steveren Langene, known as "the Firemane" for his brilliant red hair. As war engulfs the world, Ithrace is destroyed and the Greater Realms of Tembria are thrust into a dangerous struggle for supremacy.

As a Free Lord, Baron Daylon Dumarch owes allegiance to no king. When an abandoned infant is found hidden in Daylon’s pavilion, he realizes that the child must be the missing heir of the slain Steveren. The boy is valuable—and vulnerable. A cunning and patient man, Daylon decides to keep the baby’s existence secret, and sends him to be raised on the Island of Coaltachin, home of the so-called Kingdom of Night, where the powerful and lethal Nocusara, the "Hidden Warriors," legendary assassins and spies, are trained.

Years later, another orphan of mysterious provenance, a young man named Declan, earns his Masters rank as a weapons smith. Blessed with intelligence and skill, he unlocks the secret to forging King’s Steel, the apex of a weapon maker’s trade known by very few. Yet this precious knowledge is also deadly, and Declan is forced to leave his home to safeguard his life. Landing in Lord Daylon’s provinces, he hopes to start anew.

Soon, the two young men—an unknowing rightful heir to a throne and a brilliantly talented young swordsmith—will discover that their fates, and that of Garn, are entwined. The legendary, long-ago War of Betrayal has never truly ended . . . and they must discover the secret of who truly threatens their world.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

For a limited time, you can get your hands on the digital edition of Kameron Hurley's excellent Apocalypse Nyx for only 1.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

If you find yourself in need of a primer, so to speak, something that works as a great introduction to one of the most badass heroines in SFF history and to one of the best science fiction series of the new millennium thus far, then Apocalypse Nyx is just what the doctor ordered. And if you're already a fan, download this book ASAP!

Here's the blurb:

Move over Mad Max—here comes Nyx.

Ex-government assassin turned bounty-hunter Nyx is good at solving other people’s problems. Her favorite problem-solving solution is punching people in the face. Then maybe chopping off some heads. Hey—it’s a living.

Her disreputable reputation has been well earned. To Nyx’s mind, it’s also justified. After all, she’s trying to navigate an apocalyptic world full of giant bugs, contaminated deserts, scheming magicians, and a centuries-long war that’s consuming her future. Managing her ragtag squad of misfits has required a lot of morally-gray choices.

Every new job is another day alive. Every new mission is another step toward changing a hellish future—but only if she can survive.

Apocalypse Nyx is the much-anticipated print edition of Kameron Hurley’s five newest Nyx novellas, as well as the first e-book collection of her gritty, exciting adventures.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (November 19th)

In hardcover:

Stephen King's Elevation is down five spots, finishing the week at number 6. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale is down two positions, ending the week at number 11 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Bloody Rose

You may recall that I meant to read Nicholas Eames' Kings of the Wyld for quite a while, what with all the rave reviews and the fact that it was supposed to be the kind of novel Terry Pratchett and Joe Abercrombie would have written if they had ever collaborated on a project. And though the book was a far cry from George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones, or Robert Jordan's The Eye of the World, or any other work of speculative fiction that turned out to be a game-changer, it ended up being the most fun I had reading this year. And that's worth something!

Needless to say, I had lofty expectations for Bloody Rose, expectations that perhaps this novel simply could not live up to. Or maybe it's the fact that the author appears to have used the same ingredients to recreate the same recipe, putting them all in the oven and hoping for the best. The end result, however, failed to live up to the potential generated by its predecessor. Mind you, Bloody Rose is another light, funny, and entertaining read. But in many ways, it turned out to be a pale imitation of Kings of the Wyld.

Here's the blurb:

A band of fabled mercenaries, led by the infamous Bloody Rose, tour a wild fantasy landscape, battling monsters in arenas in front of thousands of adoring fans, but a secret and dangerous gig ushers them to the frozen north, and the band is never one to waste a shot at glory . . . even if it means almost certain death.

Live fast, die young.

Tam Hashford is tired of working at her local pub, slinging drinks for world-famous mercenaries and listening to the bards sing of adventure and glory in the world beyond her sleepy hometown.

When the biggest mercenary band of all, led by the infamous Bloody Rose, rolls into town, Tam jumps at the chance to sign on as their bard. It’s adventure she wants – and adventure she gets as the crew embark on a quest that will end in one of two ways: glory or death.

It’s time to take a walk on the wyld side.

As was the case with the first installment, the worldbuilding is nothing special and can be decidedly generic at times. Most of the elements have been seen and done before, over and over again. Yet again, pretty much all the tropes are present. À la Abercrombie, in Kings of the Wyld Eames enjoyed subverting those clichés and playing with readers' expectations. Not so in this sequel, sadly. The author never takes himself too seriously, which is why the first volume was so much fun to read. The fact that mercenary bands are idolized like rockstars gave Kings of the Wyld its unique flavor. As is the case with music today, with so many people complaining that it's not as good and authentic as music from the 70s, 80s, or 90s, the new mercenary companies of Eames' universe are competing against one another to live up to and ultimately outshine the bands from the past. It was hard to put a label on such a work, for one minute it was moody grimdark and the other it was laugh-out-loud hilarious. Unfortunately, the concept doesn't work as well in Bloody Rose and most of the plot felt a little rehashed.

The characterization definitely fell short this time around. Nicholas Eames truly knocked it out of the park in Kings of the Wyld. Like the members of Twister Sister and Judas Priest, the men who comprised the legendary mercenary band Saga were way past their prime and were only poor shadows of the powerful figures they once were. Other than Ganelon, who spent the last decades frozen in time, Clay Cooper, Mattrick Skulldrummer, Arcandius Moog, and “Golden Gabe” Gabriel had all seen better days. All were flawed, yet extremely endearing characters. It was a very tall order for Rose, Cura, Brune, Roderick, Tam, and Lastleaf to fill those shoes and it is no great surprise that they failed to do so. It's not that they aren't interesting protagonists in their own right. They were simply not as fun to follow as the Saga band were. The only perspective of Kings of the Wyld was that of Clay Cooper, and a more entertaining narrator I haven't encountered since Abercrombie's Sand dan Glokta. The most even-keeled member of Saga, I just loved his cynical and the-glass-is-half-empty kind of outlook on life. He definitely was the best choice of POV for that novel. As the only narrative voice in Bloody Rose, Tam Hashford's perspective never stood a chance to hold a candle to Slow Hand's and it makes a big difference.

Once more, this sequel is a fantasy story that hearkens back to the popular quest books from the 80s and early 90s, what with the characters surmounting seemingly impossible odds without getting killed and somehow finding a way to come out on top at the end. It doesn't always make sense, but it's another hell of a ride. Although it's one that doesn't work as well as that of the first volume, for it bears too many similarities with what took place in Kings of the Wyld. In terms of pace, Bloody Rose can be quite uneven in certain parts of the book. Various sequences serve little purpose other than having the proverbial shit go down the crapper and send our cast on another misadventure where they'll have to pull through and survive another ordeal to get them one step closer to their objective. The same could be said of its predecessor, true. But where the pace was fluid and I ended up breezing through Kings of the Wyld, the rhythm definitely dragged in this one.

I went through the first installment in record time. Trouble is, in my review I mentioned that I doubted that this same recipe could work a second time around. If he could, this was an auspicious beginning that could see Nicholas Eames ultimately rank right up there with the likes of Scott Lynch and Joe Abercrombie. With Bloody Rose failing to live up to expectations, it will be interesting to see what happens next.

Is Nicholas Eames a one-hit wonder and a one-trick pony? Let's hope not. We'll know for sure when the next book in the series comes out. . .

The final verdict: 6.5/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

Quote of the Day

The main screen flickered, briefly showed an Italian striker getting his coif lightly rustled by an opposing player and then falling down and writhing on the grass, and then the image flipped to Admiral Prim in his ship’s stateroom. At Prim’s side was a woman with a politician’s face (supercilious, sanctimonious, vacuous, terrified, smarmy, disingenuous, small-minded, vengeful, coldhearted, opportunistic, petty, deceitful, evidence-ignoring, bullying, arrogant, smug, obnoxious, contemptuous, ignorant, reactionary, condescending, patronizing, blinkered, vacillating, corrupt, morally bankrupt, blackmailing, blackmailable, dodgy, wavering, backstabbing, bought, sold, stinking rich, unqualified, sleazy, teeth-capped, kneecapping, corporate-owned, hate-mongering, fear-mongering, button-pushing, deflecting, evading, brazening, hit-song-stealing, nostalgia-worshipping, distorting, no-tax-returning, tax-evading, offshore-holding, shady-business-partnering, election-stealing, arms-dealing, collateral-damage signing-offing, hypocritically family-value bleating but sexually deviant-ing, honest-forthright-honorable-a paragon-of-integrity [lying], spiteful, unreliable, Teflon-coated, Saran-wrapped, white-breaded, xenophobic, cynical, uncomprehending of irony-ing, witless, thin-skinned, insecure, unfulfilled, blindly ambitious, power-hungry, sadistic, self-righteous, incapable of contemplation-ing, prevaricating, privileged, pampered, Ivy League–educated [in something useless like political science, economics, or law], pompous, ego-centered, narcissistic, shallow, bullshitting, manipulative, backtracking, quote-denying, what-climate-changing?, alternate-truth-ing, prejudice-feeding, hate-inciting, racketeering, blame-shifting, warmongering, autocratic, megalomaniacal, possibly sociopathic, blathering, self-serving, unreliable, cliquey, cagey, crafty, cunning, daft, dull, ethically destitute, irredeemable, oil-burning, fracking [but NIMBY], self-pay-raising, self-congratulating, self-aggrandizing, but all that was just first impressions so who can say?).

“Captain Hadrian, what the fuck were you doing putting me on hold?”

“Technical glitch, Admiral. But here we are, sir.”

Prim frowned, but then nodded. “Whatever. Let me introduce you to Director Soma DeLuster, the initial point of contact for these accords with the Radulak. Director.”

“Captain Sawback, pleased to meet you. I’m sure there is no real need for me to emphasize once again the delicacy of these negotiations. The Klang Surrender has triggered an economic meltdown of galactic proportions right across the entire Affiliation. Markets have crashed, hyperinflation has crippled our industries, unemployment is sky-high, mortgages are defaulting everywhere, banks are getting bailed out and CEO bonuses reduced by as much as three percent following the slew of erroneous ill-considered fiscal transactions conducted within bubbles no one could have anticipated would ever pop, and under such circumstances, a protracted war with the Radulak could see our nonhuman allies exhibit the typical shortsighted nonhuman response of behaving no better that rats fleeing a sinking ship. No, we must all tighten our belts here and stay the course but as I’m sure I don’t need to tell you, keeping our allies with us is like herding diseased vermin-ridden rats but really, what choice do we have if we want to maintain our present position as the virtuous frontrunners of trickle-down universal prosperity? Hmm?”

- STEVEN ERIKSON, Willful Child: The Search for Spark (Canada, USA, Europe)


More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Mark T. Barnes' The Garden of Stones for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

When the Shrīanese Empire explodes into civil war, fighters of all kinds flock to the banners of their lords. Indris, a skilled swordsman and brilliant sorcerer, seeks to end the bloodshed once and for all. He knows this war is simply a ruse—a power play by a ruling Family desperate to take control of the Empire by any means necessary. Indris cares little for the politics except to see that justice is upheld. But even he can't see the terrible price his opponents are willing to pay to secure their legacy.

A true epic, the first book in the Echoes of Empire series creates a spellbinding new world. With its twisted politics, new races, compelling heroes and villains, and unique magic, The Garden of Stones is a lyrical fantasy on the grandest scale.

And you can also get your hands on the sequel, The Obsidian Heart, for 0.99$ here, as well as the third volume, The Pillars of Sand, here.

That a full series for less than 4$!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Peter F. Hamilton's Pandora's Star for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The year is 2380. The Intersolar Commonwealth, a sphere of stars, contains more than six hundred worlds interconnected by a web of transport “tunnels” known as wormholes. At the farthest edge of the Commonwealth, astronomer Dudley Bose observes the impossible: over one thousand light-years away, a star . . . disappears. Since the location is too distant to reach by wormhole, the Second Chance, a faster-than-light starship commanded by Wilson Kime, a five-times-rejuvenated ex-NASA pilot, is dispatched to learn what has occurred and whether it represents a threat.

Opposed to the mission are the Guardians of Selfhood, led by Bradley Johansson. Shortly after the journey begins, Kime wonders if the crew of the Second Chance has been infiltrated. But soon enough he will have other worries. Halfway across the galaxy, something truly incredible is waiting: a deadly discovery whose unleashing will threaten to destroy the Commonwealth . . . and humanity itself.

Quote of the Day

There's a comradeship in that, in drinking together and saying nothing, because no words need to be said.

- PETER MCLEAN, Priest of Bones (Canada, USA, Europe)

The Queen of Crows

If you've been hanging around in these parts for a while, you have heard me complain that it often feels as though Myke Cole remains one of the genre's best-kept secrets. Not everyone is a military fantasy fan, that goes without saying, but his first two series are as accessible as they are captivating. It's been years since I last encountered a fantasy series with so much mass appeal and there's nothing I would like more than to see these books get more widely read and enjoyed. Both the Shadow Ops and the Gemini Cell trilogies were fun, intelligent, action-packed, and entertaining reads. From early on, you could tell that Cole would become one of speculative fiction's brightest new voices. And he did. In my humble opinion at least.

All six of these novels ended up in my SFF Top 10 of the year they were released. Alas, Ace and Headline declined to publish another series set in the same universe, so there won't be any additional Shadow Ops installments for the foreseeable future. It's a shame, as far as I'm concerned, for Cole writes military fantasy with heart and soul. The author is working on new projects as we speak, but The Sacred Throne, this new fantasy trilogy published by, is what we have to look forward to in the near future.

The Armored Saint was a totally different creature, which means that it could almost be considered another debut for Cole. Indeed, he was switching subgenres and it remained to be seen whether or not military fantasy readers would be willing to give this new work a shot. Especially since Cole's political posts on social media had already cost him a chunk of his readership. There were other aspects that might make existing fans reticent, chief among them the relatively small size of this new book and the expensive hardcover price tag attached to it. In the end, it appears that The Armored Saint did quite well commercially. So that's great news for Myke Cole.

Still, it failed to live up to the expectations I had. When all was said and done, The Armored Saint was little more than a short introduction meant to establish the premise and the characters. Time would tell if the upcoming installments will elevate this trilogy to another level of originality and quality. And though I may not have enjoyed that first volume as much as I wanted to, experience has taught me to never to bet against Myke Cole and I was curious to read The Queen of Crows.

Here's the blurb:

Myke Cole, star of CBS’s Hunted and author of the Shadow Ops series is here with book two of the Sacred Throne Trilogy: The Queen of Crows.

In this epic fantasy sequel, Heloise stands tall against overwhelming odds—crippling injuries, religious tyrants—and continues her journey from obscurity to greateness with the help of alchemically-empowered armor and an unbreakable spirit.

No longer just a shell-shocked girl, she is now a figure of revolution whose cause grows ever stronger. But the time for hiding underground is over. Heloise must face the tyrannical Order and lay siege to the Imperial Palace itself.

Once again, it must be said that this is not grimdark. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Not sure where that claim came from and why people keep saying this, but it is totally false. No matter from which angle you look at it, and regardless of what can ultimately be considered grimdark or not, The Queen of Crows and its predecessor just aren't grimdark. Nor are they truly epic fantasy. There were certain elements that, if built upon, could become so down the line. But it wasn't the case in this second installment. The modest size of these novels might also preclude their ever being considered epic fantasy. It's more dark fantasy than anything else, I reckon.

In my review of The Armored Saint, I wrote that the worldbuilding was compelling and showed a lot of promise. Unfortunately, Cole played his cards way too close to his chest and didn't elaborate on most concepts and ideas that he introduced. Given the novelette-length of the book, one had to wonder why this was the case. I mean, a few more pages and more information would have elevated this tale to another level. Of course, I opined that the forthcoming installments might do just that. But it made me wonder why so little was revealed, for the more absorbing the first volume, the more chances are that readers will line up for the sequels. The premise was simple enough. The backdrop for Heloise's story is a pseudo-medieval environment in which everyone is living under the yoke of an oppressive empire whose rule is enforced by a religious order bound by the Emperor's Holy Writ. Suffer no wizard to live. Such is the Order's most important rule. Simple and straightforward, or so it seems. Yet I would have liked to discover more about the Emperor, the Palantines, the Order, with its Sojourners and Pilgrims, the war in which Heloise's father and other villagers fought in, the war-machines inside the vault, etc. Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be. And alas, it was the same with The Queen of Crows. We do learn a little bit about the Red Lords of the Gold Coast and the Traveling People. But by and large, by the time we reach the end of The Queen of Crows, we are still about as clueless regarding the greater scheme of things as we were when we reached the last page of The Armored Saint.

À la Brandon Sanderson, everything about the plot is black-and-white. Once more, this was a disappointment for me, as Myke Cole usually writes in shades of gray and there is always more than meets the eye. The writing continues to clearly be YA in style and tone. This explains why, as was the case with the first volume, The Queen of Crows lacked all the shades of gray and substance that has made Myke Cole one of my favorite SFF authors writing today. Too black-and-white and straightforward, it doesn't deliver the way Cole's novels normally do.

Heloise started off as a simple village girl who was forced to overcome great odds to become the heroine of this tale. And now she is regarded as a Palantine, a devil-slayer. Her heart is always in the right place and she means well, but I continue to have a problem with her. Like most teenagers, she lets her emotions get the better of her and that puts her into problematic situations. Trouble is, Heloise's well-intentioned stupidity and headstrong stubbornness have cost the lives of two of her closest friends, and her actions have destroyed the lives of everyone she has ever known. True, she has shown valor and bravery. But that doesn't mean much if it ends up costing the life of everyone who has ever been dear to you. Especially given the fact that she's responsible for everything that took place. I wanted to see more character growth in The Queen of Crows, but events keep getting the better of Heloise and it wasn't meant to be. Regarding the supporting cast, I could have done without the unending arguing and bickering among the townspeople. This got old real fast and kept going all the way to the end of the book.

The Armored Saint suffered from no pacing issues, but this sequel is bogged down by too many arguments and unnecessary action scenes. It felt as though that these sequences were just filler padding meant to increase the wordcount so that The Queen of Crows could be considered a bona fide novel and not a novelette in terms of format. Hence, even though this is a relatively short work, there are a few rough patches here and there. Sadly, the ending was once again telegraphed by the midway point of the book, which made the endgame a bit predictable. This was disappointing, as Myke Cole habitually keeps readers guessing till the very end.

Here's to hoping that the author can cap off this series with an exclamation point in the final volume.

The final verdict: 6.5/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

Quote of the Day

“Well then,” said Hadrian, “are we set for mayhem or what? Of course, assuming a hostile reception. If it’s not hostile, well, I’m sure it will be sooner or later.”

“With these weapons,” said Galk, “count on it.”

“And in this manner we continue to profess peaceful intentions on an ever-expanding wave of spraying blood and alien body parts.” He tapped his comms. “Sin-Dour, put the marines on standby.”

“Yes sir.”

Tammy the chicken now appeared. “That’s right,” the AI said, “you’re going nowhere without me. You, Nina Twice, pick me up for the displacement, will you? There. Good. Oh, you have such soft hands . . . except for the bone-shattering ridge implants on the edge of your palms.”

“Now then!” said Hadrian, “onto the pads, team! And remember, so long as none of us die it doesn’t matter how many aliens we slaughter. All sympathies remain with us and indeed, our innate righteousness remains intact!”

- STEVEN ERIKSON, Willful Child: The Search for Spark (Canada, USA, Europe)

Looks like it's going to be another hilarious read! =)

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

Not sure for how long, but each installment of David Weber's bestselling Safehold series is 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

Humanity pushed its way to the stars – and encountered the Gbaba, a ruthless alien race that nearly wiped us out. Earth and her colonies are now smoldering ruins, and the few survivors have fled to distant, Earth-like Safehold, to try to rebuild. But the Gbaba can detect the emissions of an industrial civilization, so the human rulers of Safehold have taken extraordinary measures: with mind control and hidden high technology, they’ve built a religion in which every Safeholdian believes, a religion designed to keep Safehold society medieval forever. 800 years pass. In a hidden chamber on Safehold, an android from the far human past awakens. This “rebirth” was set in motion centuries before, by a faction that opposed shackling humanity with a concocted religion. Via automated recordings, “Nimue” – or, rather, the android with the memories of Lieutenant Commander Nimue Alban – is told her fate: she will emerge into Safeholdian society, suitably disguised, and begin the process of provoking the technological progress which the Church of God Awaiting has worked for centuries to prevent.

Nothing about this will be easy. To better deal with a medieval society, “Nimue” takes a new gender and a new name, “Merlin.” His formidable powers and access to caches of hidden high technology will need to be carefully concealed. And he’ll need to find a base of operations, a Safeholdian country that’s just a little more freewheeling, a little less orthodox, a little more open to the new. And thus Merlin comes to Charis, a mid-sized kingdom with a talent for naval warfare. He plans to make the acquaintance of King Haarahld and Crown Prince Cayleb, and maybe, just maybe, kick off a new era of invention. Which is bound to draw the attention of the Church…and, inevitably, lead to war. It’s going to be a long, long process. And David Weber’s epic Off Armageddon Reef is can’t-miss sci-fi.

Safehold Series 1. Off Armageddon Reef 2. By Schism Rent Asunder 3. By Heresies Distressed 4. A Mighty Fortress 5. How Firm A Foundation 6. Midst Toil and Tribulation 7. Like A Mighty Army 8. Hell’s Foundations Quiver 9. At the Sign of Triumph.

At the Publisher’s request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Jim Butcher's Summer Knight for only 1.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

In the fourth novel in the #1 New York Times bestselling series featuring everyone's favorite wizard for hire, Harry Dresden is suckered into the tangled—and dangerous—affairs of Faerie...

Ever since his girlfriend left town to deal with her newly acquired taste for blood, Harry Dresden has been down and out in Chicago. He can’t pay his rent. He’s alienating his friends. He can’t even recall the last time he took a shower. The only professional wizard in the phone book has become a desperate man.

And just when it seems things can’t get any worse, in saunters the Winter Queen of Faerie. She has an offer Harry can’t refuse if he wants to free himself of the supernatural hold his faerie godmother has over him—and hopefully end his run of bad luck. All he has to do is find out who murdered the Summer Queen’s right-hand man, the Summer Knight, and clear the Winter Queen’s name.

It seems simple enough, but Harry knows better than to get caught in the middle of faerie politics. Until he finds out that the fate of the entire world rests on his solving this case. No pressure or anything...

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (November 12th)

In hardcover:

Stephen King's Elevation debuts at number 1. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale is down one position, ending the week at number 9 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Neal Stephenson's Seveneves for only 1.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Anathem, Reamde, and Cryptonomicon comes an exciting and thought-provoking science fiction epic—a grand story of annihilation and survival spanning five thousand years.

What would happen if the world were ending?

A catastrophic event renders the earth a ticking time bomb. In a feverish race against the inevitable, nations around the globe band together to devise an ambitious plan to ensure the survival of humanity far beyond our atmosphere, in outer space.

But the complexities and unpredictability of human nature coupled with unforeseen challenges and dangers threaten the intrepid pioneers, until only a handful of survivors remain . . .

Five thousand years later, their progeny—seven distinct races now three billion strong—embark on yet another audacious journey into the unknown . . . to an alien world utterly transformed by cataclysm and time: Earth.

A writer of dazzling genius and imaginative vision, Neal Stephenson combines science, philosophy, technology, psychology, and literature in a magnificent work of speculative fiction that offers a portrait of a future that is both extraordinary and eerily recognizable. As he did in Anathem, Cryptonomicon, the Baroque Cycle, and Reamde, Stephenson explores some of our biggest ideas and perplexing challenges in a breathtaking saga that is daring, engrossing, and altogether brilliant.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Vividly imagined, stunningly prophetic, and epic in scope, The Diamond Age is a major novel from one of the most visionary writers of our time.

Decades into our future, a stone’s throw from the ancient city of Shanghai, a brilliant nanotechnologist named John Percival Hackworth has just broken the rigorous moral code of his tribe, the powerful neo-Victorians. He's made an illicit copy of a state-of-the-art interactive device called A Young Ladys Illustrated Primer Commissioned by an eccentric duke for his grandchild, stolen for Hackworth's own daughter, the Primer’s purpose is to educate and raise a girl capable of thinking for herself. It performs its function superbly. Unfortunately for Hackworth, his smuggled copy has fallen into the wrong hands.

Young Nell and her brother Harv are thetes—members of the poor, tribeless class. Neglected by their mother, Harv looks after Nell. When he and his gang waylay a certain neo-Victorian—John Percival Hackworth—in the seamy streets of their neighborhood, Harv brings Nell something special: the Primer.

Following the discovery of his crime, Hackworth begins an odyssey of his own. Expelled from the neo-Victorian paradise, squeezed by agents of Protocol Enforcement on one side and a Mandarin underworld crime lord on the other, he searches for an elusive figure known as the Alchemist. His quest and Nell’s will ultimately lead them to another seeker whose fate is bound up with the Primer—a woman who holds the key to a vast, subversive information network that is destined to decode and reprogram the future of humanity.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Lev Grossman's The Magicians for only 1.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

Quentin Coldwater is a brilliant but unhappy young man growing up in Brooklyn, NY. At 17, he remains obsessed with the fantasy novels he read as a child, set in the magical land of Fillory. One day, returning home from a college interview gone awry, he finds himself whisked to Brakebills, an exclusive college for wizards hidden in upstate New York. And so begins THE MAGICIANS, the thrilling and original novel of fantasy and disenchantment by Lev Grossman, author of the international bestseller Codex and book critic for TIME magazine.

At Brakebills, Quentin learns to cast spells. He makes friends and falls in love. He transforms into animals and gains powers of which he never dreamed. Still, magic doesn’t bring Quentin the happiness and adventure he thought it would, and four years later, he finds himself back in Manhattan, living an aimless, hedonistic existence born of apathy, boredom and the ability to conjure endless sums of money out of thin air.

One afternoon, hung over and ruing some particularly foolish behavior, Quentin is surprised by the sudden arrival of his Brakebills friend and rival Penny, who announces that Fillory is real. This news promises to finally fulfill Quentin’s yearning, but their journey turns out to be darker and more dangerous than Quentin could have imagined. His childhood dream is a nightmare with a shocking truth at its heart.

At once psychologically piercing and magnificently absorbing, THE MAGICIANS pays intentional homage to the beloved fantasy novels of C. S. Lewis, T.H. White and J.K. Rowling, but does much more than enlarge the boundaries of conventional fantasy writing. By imagining magic as practiced by real people, with their capricious desires and volatile emotions, Grossman creates an utterly original world in which good and evil aren’t black and white, love and sex aren’t simple or innocent, and power comes at a terrible price.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (November 5th)

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale is up two positions, ending the week at number 8 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Nora Roberts' Year One debuts at number 15 (trade paperback).

The Girl in the Fog

I gave Donato Carrisi's debut, The Whisperer, a perfect score a few years back. Dubbed the Italian literary thriller phenomenon, I have always remained on the lookout for anything else written by Carrisi and I've bought everything he has released thus far. Originally written in Italian, as I did with his other books I went for the French translation for this novel as well. Read The Vanished Ones, sequel to The Whisperer, during my Central American adventure earlier this year and I wasn't disapointed. Going through a rough patch as far as SFF titles are concerned lately, what with the new Glen Cook, Nicholas Eames, and Myke Cole not living up to the hype, I decided to give The Girl in the Fog a shot and I'm glad I did!

Oddly enough, although Donato Carrisi is a bestselling author in various countries, he continues to be virtually unknown in the USA. As is often the case, English language publishers have a tendency to be far behind the rest of the world when it comes to international bestsellers. One only has to look at Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy, which became a worldwide literary phenomenon before it was even translated into English. Still, The Girl in the Fog was named the crime book of the month by the Sunday Times, so there might be hope yet.

Here's the blurb:

An atmospheric novel about the disappearance of Anna, fifteen, on a cold night in a small town in the Italian mountains close to the Slovenian border. Vogel, a policeman specialising in murder cases, has two suspects: a lonely literature professor who could be connected to the crime; and a teenage boy tracked down via Anna's diary. In true Carissi style, the lines blur between policemen and murderer and Vogel is a potential suspect in the case of Anna's death. Surrounding all this is a media storm with the girl's family at its centre - it culminates in a television interview between Vogel and the professor and a strange and shocking revelation about Anna's death.

As is usually his wont, a variety of sources were used by Donato Carrisi for this literary work, chief among them criminology and forensic psychiatry manuals, as well as several FBI papers regarding serial killers and violent crimes. Many true cases, finalized or ongoing, inspired a number of those found within the pages of the novel. With his homework done properly, like its predecessors Carrisi's latest novel has an unmistakable genuine feel to it. In an interview at the end of the book, the author explains that there are less violent scenes in this one because he wanted to focus on fear, especially the fear that you could lose someone, at any time and anywhere.

Once more, the characterization is top notch. Investigator Vogel's perspective takes center stage. An unscrupulous cop who has become a master at manipulating the media, a while back he fell from grace when he was accused of creating false evidence to solve a case. He means to use Anna Lou Kastner's disappearance to reclaim his star status and couldn't care less about uncovering the actual  truth. All he needs is a guilty party, a monster, regardless of the fact that there is evidence or not. Vogel is assisted by Borghi, a younger cop who doesn't always agree with Vogel's unorthodox methods. For the most part, the narrative is driven by both of their points of view. The third perspective is that of Dr. Flores, a local psychiatrist.

The structure of the plot goes back and forth through the timeline of events. It begins with a bang, sixty-two days following the girl's disappearance, as agent Vogel is involved in a car accident and appears to have murdered someone. Suffering from sudden memory loss, he is taken to Dr Flores, who has been charged with finding the truth behind what took place. And in true Carrisi fashion, the more you learn, the less you know.

Like its predecessors, The Girl in the Fog is as captivating as it is perturbing. As was the case with all the other Carrisi titles, it is another complex, multilayered thriller that stays with you long after you've reached the last page. It's another clever work with plots and subplots forming a frightening tapestry, all of which culminating toward an ending that will hit you like an uppercut. The Girl in the Fog is also an unapologetic critique of the media and how they cover crime investigations.

When all is said and done, this troubling work is everything a thriller is meant to be. If you are looking for compelling and disturbing books delving into psychology that stay with you long after you have finished reading them, give Donato Carrisi a shot as soon as humanly possible! You won't be disappointed!

The final verdict: 8/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Fonda Lee's Jade City, recent winner of the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel, for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

In this epic saga of magic and kungfu, four siblings battle rival clans for honor and power in an Asia-inspired fantasy metropolis.

* Aurora Award for Best Novel, winner
* Nebula Award for Best Novel, nominee
* Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel, finalist
* World Fantasy Award for Best Novel, finalist

Jade is the lifeblood of the island of Kekon. It has been mined, traded, stolen, and killed for -- and for centuries, honorable Green Bone warriors like the Kaul family have used it to enhance their magical abilities and defend the island from foreign invasion.

Now, the war is over and a new generation of Kauls vies for control of Kekon's bustling capital city. They care about nothing but protecting their own, cornering the jade market, and defending the districts under their protection. Ancient tradition has little place in this rapidly changing nation.

When a powerful new drug emerges that lets anyone -- even foreigners -- wield jade, the simmering tension between the Kauls and the rival Ayt family erupts into open violence. The outcome of this clan war will determine the fate of all Green Bones -- from their grandest patriarch to the lowliest motorcycle runner on the streets -- and of Kekon itself.

Jade City is the first novel in an epic trilogy about family, honor, and those who live and die by the ancient laws of blood and jade.

Book trailer for the new French edition of Steven Erikson's GARDENS OF THE MOON

Awesome! =)

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can download David Mack's The Midnight Front for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

On the eve of World War Two, Nazi sorcerers come gunning for Cade but kill his family instead. His one path of vengeance is to become an apprentice of The Midnight Front—the Allies’ top-secret magickal warfare program—and become a sorcerer himself.

Unsure who will kill him first—his allies, his enemies, or the demons he has to use to wield magick—Cade fights his way through occupied Europe and enemy lines. But he learns too late the true price of revenge will be more terrible than just the loss of his soul—and there’s no task harder than doing good with a power born of ultimate evil.

You can also get your hands on the digital edition of Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman's Well of Darkness, first volume in the Sovereign Stone trilogy, for only 1.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

Second in line for succession to the throne, Prince Dagnarus will have his crown...and his queen -- though his heart's prize is a married elfin beauty. Let his hated half-brother Prince Helmos and the Dominion Lords dare to oppose him. For Dagnarus's most loyal servant has ventured into the terrible darkness, where lies the most potent talisman in the realm. And once it is in the dark prince's hand, no power will deter his Destiny.

Finally, you can also download Dan Koboldt's The Rogue Retrieval for only 0.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

Sleight of hand…in another land.

Stage magician Quinn Bradley has one dream: to headline his own show on the Vegas Strip. And with talent scouts in the audience wowed by his latest performance, he knows he’s about to make the big-time.

What he doesn’t expect is an offer to go on a quest to a place where magic is all too real.

That's how he finds himself in Alissia, a world connected to ours by a secret portal owned by a powerful corporation. He’s after an employee who has gone rogue, and that’s the least of his problems. Alissia has true magicians…and the penalty for impersonating one is death. In a world where even a twelve-year-old could beat Quinn in a swordfight, it's only a matter of time until the tricks up his sleeves run out.

Scientist and blogger Dan Koboldt weaves wonder, humor, and heart into this debut novel, The Rogue Retrieval. Fans of Terry Brooks and Terry Pratchett will find this a thrilling read.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (October 29th)

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale is down two positions, ending the week at number 10 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Nicholas Eames' Kings of the Wyld for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:


Clay Cooper and his band were once the best of the best, the most feared and renowned crew of mercenaries this side of the Heartwyld.

Their glory days long past, the mercs have grown apart and grown old, fat, drunk, or a combination of the three. Then an ex-bandmate turns up at Clay's door with a plea for help--the kind of mission that only the very brave or the very stupid would sign up for.

It's time to get the band back together.